New laws working through the Florida legislature could radically change the availability and legality of medical cannabis in the state.
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith the input of the Drug Free America Foundation, Florida legislators wrote one of the worst medical cannabis bills in the country; it would deny patients access to all medical cannabis options other than low-THC CBD oil, and it just cleared another committee hurdle.
This week, HB 1397 cleared the Health Quality Subcommittee, meaning it only has two more stops to make in committee before it can go to the floor for a full vote.
The bill would alter a swath of definitions and rules in Florida’s medical cannabis program, and supporters of the original medical decriminalization effort say the bill goes against the spirit of Amendment 2.
The bans on all cannabis other than CBD oil is covered in the portion of the bill that lays out what is not considered medical use in Florida; the circumstances where patients would not be offered legal protections. These include using medical cannabis that was not directly provided by one of the state’s commercial grow facilities — currently there are only seven.
The bill also bans the following:
“Possession, use, or administration of marijuana in a form for smoking or vaping or in the form of commercially produced food items made with marijuana or marijuana oils, except for vapable forms possessed, used, or administered by or for a qualified patient diagnosed with a terminal condition.”
Essentially, it’s an across the board ban on everything — but if you can prove you’re going to die you can get a vape pen.
The bill specifically singles out “commercially produced” goods — as in well-done products produced in commercial kitchens with proper packaging and labeling. But what’s also troubling is the ban on use or administration of any form or amount of marijuana in a manner that is inconsistent with the qualified physician’s directions. This would deny protections to patients attempting to dial in their dosage to their needs, as seen in nearly every other medical cannabis state.
And with the updated definition of caregiver, those with parents who retired to Florida will not be able to be their caregiver unless they become permanent residents of the state.
The first person to speak in favor of the bill during Tuesday’s hearing was none other than Drug Free America Foundation and Save Society From Drugs Executive Director, Calivna Fay, one of the nation’s harshest critics of the recent wave of states approving both medical and recreational cannabis.
She told the Orlando Sentinel she’s happy with the bill.
“I’m pleased to see that [the bill] has incorporated many of our recommendations,” she said.
Fay was the biggest opponent to legalization efforts in Colorado: in a failed attempt at denying legal recreational cannabis in Colorado, she donated $126,497 (via the Drug Free America’s 501c4 political arm, Save Our Society From Drugs) to SMART Colorado — a regional anti-decriminalization group.
One of the reasons Fay showed up to the hearing was because Florida is the backyard of the Drug Free America Foundation’s founders, Betty and Mel Sembler.
To this day, Mel Sembler is one of the most powerful men in Florida without a desk in the Tallahassee state house. He recently served as the co-chairman of President Donald Trump’s campaign efforts in Florida, then went on to serve on the financial committee for the inauguration.
He was the finance chairman for the Republican National Committee, served as Florida’s National Committeeman to the Republican National Committee and sat on the Board of Directors of the Republican Jewish Coalition, the International Council of Shopping Centers, the Florida Governor’s Mansion Foundation, Florida Holocaust Museum, the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation, the American Australian Education Leadership Foundation…
And by the way, he hates pot.
Florida’s republican legislature was more than happy to support one of its biggest donors’ pet project. Ben Pollara of the Yes on 2 campaign — who candidly called the bill “The Mel Sembler Medical Marijuana Act” — said that was especially true once the House Speaker, Richard Corcoran, got on board.
“The way the house runs is basically a dictatorship,” Pollara said. “It’s the speaker’s bill and there will be no opposition.”
When Pollara saw Fay, who serves as Sembler’s chief anti-drug henchwoman, he knew things weren’t looking bright.
“I knew it was bad. I was trying to be diplomatic and hoping it would get better,” he said. “It’s horrible. It’s a bad piece of legislation.”
The bill still has a few stops to make, so Pollara hasn’t completely lost hope, but knows it will be difficult to go against Corcoran.
“He said he was open to amending the bill,” Pollara said. “We’ll see if he does that. Until then I can’t be for the bill — it’s a disservice to the will of the voters.
We reached out to Marijuana Policy Project to get their take on the bill. MPP Legislative Counsel, Jesse Kelley, said the organization would no longer consider Florida a true medical marijuana state if the bill passes.
“The bill not only undermines the desire of the vast majority of Floridians who voted in favor of Amendment 2, but also would limit the market availability of medical marijuana causing direct harm to patients,” Kelley said. “[It] would, in the eyes of MPP, remove Florida from the list of states who have truly implemented a medical marijuana program due to the limitations on ingestion.”
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